The relation to drive structure

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

We start from the notion of the total transference situation:

Different levels of interpretation can be distinguished: level 1 – ‘this is your father you are afraid of, and you feel that the man in the grey suit is your father’ (in the patient’s dream); level 2 – as the analyst in the session, the analyst is introducing the patient to aspects of herself and her internal object relationships that she doesn’t consciously experience or know about; level 3 – the way in which patients feel the analyst is enacting, and indeed the way in which patients pull the analyst into enacting the scenarios of their inner world; and level 4 – the level 3 enactment may be necessary in order for the analyst to be aware of what is going on in the larger context, and the analyst may need to be alert to the part this larger context plays in this in relation to his or her own anxieties and defence mechanisms. The total transference situation, then, involves taking all of these levels into consideration. (description of levels taken from p87, “Mapping the Landscape: levels of transference interpretation”, by Priscilla Roth, in “In Pursuit of Psychic Change: the Betty Joseph Workshop”, Brunner-Routledge 2004.)

We can ask what is the ‘organising principle’ behind the system of object relations manifesting itself. In considering this ‘organising principle’, we are paying particular attention to the effects of Level 4. If we accept (as is argued in “Working Below the Surface: the emotional life of contemporary organisations”, Karnac Books 2004) that, whatever personal valencies we might have for particular organisations of object relations, we are dealing with an organisation of objects, then what do we have?

If we take the Kleinian route, then we have innate phantasies.

“When these innate preconceptions meet with experiences with objects, primitive phantasies are formed concerning breast and penis, intercourse and reproduction. For Kleinians phantasy forming and phantasy life are thought to start from birth and to continue throughout life. All the contents and structures of the unconscious mind are thought to be organised in the form of phantasies…”.

So the Kleinian route appears to be arguing that it is as if there is a phantasy formation organising the particular organisation of object relations characteristic of the organisation. This makes sense, and we can use the notion of a ‘sponsoring system’ as a way of referring to the effects of such a phantasy formation, something which can be seen as operating in the same way as an ideology as reflecting a particular form of libidinal investment[1]. This is the argument made in “Facing Facts: what is the good of change”.

Now we can understand power-at-the-centre in terms of the way phantasy formation is able to contain meaning, giving us the familiar formulation of the organisation that emerged post WWII. With this formulation comes all the apparatus of Bion’s work group and its underlying basic assumptions. In effect, therefore, I am arguing that the ‘Tavistock Paradigm’ is very effective in addressing the characteristics of ‘power-at-the-centre’. How, then, are we to understand power at the edge – the response to asymmetric demand – formulated as the demand for distributed leadership. By implication, the post WWII formulation needs further elaboration to be able to address the problematics of power-at-the-edge.

“Working below the surface” leads us to the idea of protainment: “containment that can communicate the pleasures of self-discovery and discovery of the world and encouragement for exploration and curiosity”.[2] It is interesting that Lacan is invoked at this point in the book in relation to jouissance. Jouissance is organised in relation to the Lacanian objet petit a. And the objet petit a is not the Kleinian object.

In my paper that critiqued the earlier Unconscious at Work, in the dilemmas of ignorance, I pointed out the difficulties that arose in the Kleinian oeuvre from privileging phantasy over drive. In a Lacanian reading of Freud, phantasy is a response to drive, organising the subject’s relation to the lack, which is then itself ‘covered’ by the objet petit a. In these terms, protainment is the idea that the phantasy formation qua organisation of object relations is not a thing-in-itself, but is itself a response to drive as made present in the form of a relation to objet petit a – object, cause of desire. This formulation requires that we cease to privilege phantasy as ‘innate’, approaching it instead as an organisation of object relations formed in relation to drive functioning[3]. The benefit of understanding the organisation of object relations as formed in relation to drive is that we can now begin to think about a challenge to phantasy formation as being the corollary of the challenge of power-at-the-edge.

[1] The unconscious valency of this phantasy to a particular organisation of objects is what gives rise to ‘unintentional’ errors.
[2] p66 in ‘What women leaders can tell us’ by Clare Huffington – in Working below the Surface by Clare Huffington, David Armstrong, William Halton, Linda Hoyle and Jane Pooley
[3] As in [1], this ‘organisation of object relations’ determines the nature of the valency between subjection to the unconscious and subjection to the social/reality…  in Kleinian terms, we might refer to it as ‘whole object organisation’.

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